Web scraping tools are must-haves for making intelligent business decisions–but there are numerous options and little time to test them.
That’s why this post exists. To give you a rundown of different web scraping tools and how to narrow down your choices.
So, why should you take our word for it?
Because we’re selfish.
If this guide helps you discover the ideal solution for your unique data gathering needs, it saves us time and effort. We don’t have to explain it to you later when you’re using our rotating residential proxies to supercharge your web scraping tool.
(Did we just get ahead of ourselves?)
What are web scraping tools?
Web scraping is a system of extracting data from a website or application. You could do it all by hand–copying and pasting for days–or employ a robot to do it for you.
We call these robots web scrapers. You can program them to scan, collect, organize, and analyze web data faster than a team of data scientists jacked on caffeine.
They also cost less. (In coffee and in dollars)
How exactly do web scraping tools work?
The scraping process varies from tool to tool, but they generally execute the following sequence.
1. The web scraping tools crawl the web for relevant URLs to load before scraping.
2. The web scraper loads the complete HTML code for each page.
3. You specify the data you desire–values, contact info, product listings, etc.–that the web scraping tool will extract from the pages.
4. The software organizes the scraped data into a usable format.
Why do people use web scraping tools?
We use web scraping tools to extract data from websites to quickly find usable information on the web. We can use this data for:
- Monitoring markets
- Tracking e-commerce prices
- Generating leads
- Finding investment opportunities
- Analyzing consumer sentiment
- Developing AI solutions
- Researching new ideas
- Gathering contact information
- Updating news feeds
3 types of web scraping tools.
Browser extension: These are simple web scraping solutions you can use on most browsers like Chrome and Safari. They are more suitable for small-scale web scraping projects because you can only scrape one page at a time. The benefit of using a browser scraping tool is that it tends to be free and easy to use.
Installable software: These are downloadable software programs that can handle scraping multiple pages, ideal for most small-to-medium-sized projects. While these web scraping tools tend to have little cost, there is often a more significant learning curve.
Cloud-based: These are commonly known as web scraping APIs. These exist on a cloud server owned and operated by a web scraping service. All you need to do is subscribe to one of their monthly plans and input the search parameters. They often come with web scraping proxies and require no coding. Web scraping APIs are more expensive but worth every penny for medium-to-large businesses who need to take data more seriously and are busy with more important tasks than messing around with technical know-how.
Things to consider before choosing web scraping tools.
Web scraping can be resource-intensive. It would help if you kept in mind a couple of factors before deciding on which web scraping tools to use.
The goal of most businesses is to grow. Choose a web scraping tool that can handle an increase in data demand if your data collection needs to expand over time.
Choosing a suitable web scraping tool depends on the data format you will receive the data. For instance, if you need JSON format data, you should narrow your search down to the scrapers that deliver in JSON.
To be safe, you must pick a provider that provides a crawler that can provide data in a wide array of formats–XLM, CSV, JSON–because there may be times that you need to receive data in an alternate format.
Many websites you plan to scrape have anti-scraping software. Many web scraping API services take care of this for you. However, you can ensure that your web scraping runs smoothly by employing rotating residential proxies.
Proxy rotation disguises the consecutive and simultaneous requests that web scrapers are known for by continuously changing your IP address.
You might run into an issue while scraping the web. Troubleshooting is fun for about the first five minutes until you realize why it takes four years to finish a computer science degree.
Customer support, therefore, becomes an essential feature when deciding on a scraping tool, especially when downtime is an expense you want to avoid.
Most internet data is unstructured, so you need to clean and organize it before using it. Many API solutions do this for you, but be sure to ask what the data looks like as a final product. Will you receive actionable answers in a tidy chart, or will you need to extrapolate insights from pages of results?
The pricing structure of your tool should be reasonably transparent–no hidden costs or limitations.
Pricing models might vary according to your needs and requirements. There are various choices, from pay-as-you-go pricing models to paying only for the data you consume.
Also, consider some pricing structures with a data value or page value per credit. For example, you may get 100 credits with your plan, which costs one credit for every scraping project.
Now you know what to look for in a web scraping tool. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a few recommendations?
We think so too–check out our in-depth post that breaks down the top web scraping APIs.